There is quite a spectrum of conditioning drills across the Chinese martial arts:
- Iron Arm focuses on toughening the forearms for blocking and striking
- Iron Fingers focuses on toughening the fingers for gripping, ripping and penetrating
- Iron Fist focuses on toughening the knuckles and things near them for punching
- Iron Leg focuses on toughening the foot, heel, shin and knee for kicks
- Iron Vest focuses on toughening the ribs and lower abdomen font and back against blows. If someone knows of a variant that toughens collarbones, shoulders or hip bones I’d be grateful to hear about it.
- Iron Palm focuses on toughening an open hand to deliver block, strikes and chops. In In systems from the arts of Hung Gar and Northern Shaolin systems there is also a emphasis on gripping with the hand.
In the Iron Palm disciplines that I am familiar with one dit da jow is used all the way through. This is a Shao Yang activator – selected herbs are steeped in an alcohol like rice wine or vodka and used to provide heat to increase circulation to the hands. The idea is to increase the velocity and amount of blood moving to reduce bruising and speed up conditioning of skin, blood vessels and fascia. I am not clear if there is an intent to dampen neural transmissions.
In the other conditioning regimes mentioned above use of a ‘hot’ jow like dit da jow is frequently seen in the first stages of training. For the other regimes there are several distinctive schemes but a reasonable generalization is the second stage conditions tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, while the third stage conditions the bones and bone marrow.